Roundtable #2 – Good Teachers

WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES AND CHARACTERISTICS OF MEMORABLE TEACHERS?

How do you hope to affect those who seek to learn from you?

 

First thing that came to my mind was yes some people leave their mark on us. Sometimes because they are great teachers, and sometimes because they are bad ones. I think we learn as much by association then by dissociation. I suppose after that, it is all about balance, more good than bad and none disastrous or traumatizing. The qualities I enjoy and appreciate the most in good teachers is their curiosity and their willingness to answer questions. The ones that keep themselves challenged and interested.
And by putting themselves out there, they also learn and experience what it is to be a student. They remember how scared one can be to explore and get out of their comfort zone. I like nuances and if a teacher is humble and ready to admit he does not have all the answers, I always find that refreshing and they get my attention. Being able to read non verbal cues, staying empathic, adjusting levels of classes, adapting and trying to challenge students, just the right amount, as in flow theory, enough challenge to keep it interesting and stimulating, in accordance to the abilities of the person, is key. Creating a safe space is also key.
And one teacher can be bad and good. For example in my years as a gymnast, I had a coach that was an incredible technician, he could analyze the physics of movement, explain, and vulgarize the information. He was smart and knowledgeable. I learned a lot from him and he’s been very influential in my way of teaching. The other side of it though is that he focused a lot on results which translated into pressure and I reacted badly to this part, it increased the performance anxiety that was already there for me. This created fear of inadequacy. He was also influential in that way. Today I’m always concerned about this aspect, so that students as much as possible come out of classes with a positive take on the work, keeping focus on pleasure and process and building self-esteem.
In the more recent years, I’d say I love a teacher that can engage all part of me, brain and body. Basically curiosity is the word. Curiosity for the work, curiosity toward others and passionate to share. — Nadia Genois

 

 

I have been fortunate enough to encounter several great teachers in different fields. One who keeps making his way back to the foreground of my thoughts every year or two is Cecil Slaughter. In college, where I studied Economics and Psychology, Cecil was my most memorable teacher–he taught Modern and Jazz Dance.
Halfway through my degree, I decided I wanted to go to circus school after graduating. I was a juggler, but I had no background in acrobatics, strength, mobility, dance, acting…Terrified, I signed up to start taking dance classes. Surrounded by people who had danced their way out of the womb (and my brave juggling partner!), I faced Cecil. He was the kind of teacher who could look at you once, and immediately know how you were feeling, whether you were stressed about an exam the next day, how much sleep you’d been getting–seemingly everything.
I walked into almost every class anxious, and out of every class confident. My posture improved, my dancing improved, I improved. Cecil made me comfortable enough to try and uncomfortable enough to encounter new things. He helped build me a practice of consistently seeking novelty without so much threat that I would stop.
Thank you, Cecil.
I don’t know everything that makes a good teacher, but I think two ingredients are providing a variety of support and a variety of novelty. I strive to incorporate each into my work, regardless of the apparent content.  — Jeremy Fein

 

 

The teachers that come to me with the most neurologically well rounded approach I’ve experienced thus far are Josef Fruzek in the movement-fitness world, and Giovanni Fusetti in the physical theater-clown-acting world.
In fact, both teachers are movement teachers, and both teachers have a lot experience crafting emotional and artistic narratives for paying audiences.
A great teacher parses out information in a useful way, titrating the volume, intensity, complexity, as well as sequencing the material effectively.
Simultaneously a great teacher also improvises, inspires, and reacts mindfully to the present tone of the room, and honors the material by frequently citing and respecting the lineage of how the material was passed to them.
I aspire to be a great teacher, which is composed of many skills and behaviors. It’s a deep dive into the “psyche-soma”, literally the soul-body, or the “soul-as-body-as-soul”.
This model of framing the terrain is relational and directional.
It’s not authoritarian, though it does have good structure and boundaries.
It’s open for dialogue without losing track of itself. It’s a “two-way street”.
There’s a lot of listening-sensing into the fields.
The field of the body of information, the field of your own body, the field of the group body, etc.
And all of this is predicated on the teacher really walking their walk. A deeply tread path through the forest of possibilities.
I am routinely struck by many of Josef’s word reminders, his playful yelling of “YOU HAVE TO COOK!”, and Giovanni’s sheer enthusiasm for being IN THE SOUP.
Both of these wisdoms point to a being with, not dissociating from the present moment, the present sensations, and the empowering choices that strengthen our autonomy and sovereignty while respecting the processes alive in the now.
When i am with my body, instead of trying to force it to do something, I am met with my real self, my real desires and sorrows, and the journey towards my future self is much more collaborative.  — Dare Sohei

 

 

I think we often mistake teaching for being told what to do by someone. Is explicit instruction good teaching? If one can take a person from A to B, in a simple step-by-step manner, then they are usually considered a great teacher. Although, in my experience, this style tends to creates dependency and ultimately complacency.
It’s difficult to take responsibility for our own development. It’s convenient to be told what to do and how to do it. Using someone else’s experience to inform our decisions requires less struggle and exploration. It may be time effective, but it could also rob us from discovering who we are and what we actually aspire to do in our lifetime.
It also feels good to attach and identify with something. Through this, we often become dogmatic and that ultimately retards our development. Camps are built, then eventually walls, and our world gets smaller.
Variety is the spice of life. Exposure to another person’s view can certainly provide valuable insight through which we can improve our own situation. Although, in today’s age, we probably have too much outside information. If anything, we need less interference from external sources and more freedom to think for ourselves. But again, this takes a unique combination of curiosity and patience.
If we study children, it seems they learn best by observing. Regarding their maturation, the environment they are exposed to is monumental. Are adults much different?
I think Lao Tzu said it best,
The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”  — Michael Ryan

 

 

My 8th grade grammar teacher taught me tons but had a gruff personality.  I learned so much about language from her but she gave off the vibe of a schoolmarm and kept a tight bubble of separateness.  I wish I could by her a cup of coffee now and thank her.  I think she’d warm up if asked.
My high school history teacher encouraged us to create our own meaning about the happenings of the past.  I specifically remember him saying, “The South liked slaves as individuals, and trusted many to care for their family, but disliked them as a group. The North like slaves as a group, and believed in the idea of giving them freedom to prosper, but disliked them as individuals who competed with them for jobs.”  It made me think about dichotomies and that there is always more to the story.
I never thought I’d be a teacher growing up.  I didn’t even think I’d be a teacher after college.  I wasn’t a huge fan of kids, and other than these sparse glimpses of gratitude, I didn’t believe they were wildly important.  I did the work they assigned but mostly learned on my own.
It wasn’t until I took a job teaching seniors at a gym and working with disabled people in a group home that I truly understood their impact.  The seniors just wanted something to do and someone to chat with, and they would do anything I asked, giving real-time, delightful commentary the entire way.  They didn’t want a bigger butt or better chest; they simply wanted to move without fear.  We had a great time together.  The boys in the group home were so grateful for the simplest things.  I would take a guy to the bank and he’d well up with joyful tears.  It was a lesson in perspective.
What I believe makes a good teacher nowadays, and what I strive to deliver, is to ensure the student realizes that the answers they come up with are just as valuable and important as what is presented to them.  That they are confident in developing their own truths (a tangent to being seen, heard, and cared for, I believe) is the driving force behind everything I do.  — Christine Ruffolo

 

 

 

A good teacher is someone who pays attention to what is in front of them, trusts themselves, and rides the waves without any falter of hope and faith that the events before them can be both fun and healing, though not always at the same time.
When I watch someone teach I have technical criticism if my level of expertise allows me to notice it. Otherwise I really appreciate and try to create experiences myself that make people more aware of themselves and that lead them to their own conclusions with minimalist framing.
I love teachers that are truly happy to be there.  — Samantha Faulhaber

 

 

A good teacher is a concept I used to think about a lot. Two people come into my mind, I personally consider good teachers. They are Angel Di Benedetto and Richard Corbeil. Both teachers were my educators, or teachers, to become a Feldenkrais Practitioner. They themselves do not consider themselves teachers, but facilitators. Having heard from this concept for the first time, I got very intrigued by it. You could draw a line to a gardener and a flower. The gardener supports the growing of the flower by taking care that the flower is at the right place, not having too much sun and not having to little. Then he will take care of the watering, the right amount at the right time. He will also watch out for the soil, to deliver the nutrients the flower needs. Therefore he needs to kind of feel what all this flower needs. So was my time with Angel and Richard. From the first minute I entered the classroom I felt accepted, till the end of our apprenticeship. The time being together was structured into different themes like biomechanics, child development, neuroscience, movement theories on the one hand and practical hours of lying on the floor, actively experiencing, and one-on-one hands-on hours on the other hand. The feeling I got out of this apprenticeship was practical knowledge on the one side and positive reinforcement to live my dreams on the other side.
All in all, Angel and Richard are characterised by having a broad and deep knowledge of different fields, both theoretically and practically. They are able to switch the view on it, they reframe, to see something from a different standpoint. So it was with the students as well. They were able to see where someone was standing and what this person could need right now to just feel better. That is a gift and a skill they also tried to make it become real in us. You could call this motivation. Teach motivation to teach motivation!
When it comes to my own work, in retrospect, I can see that I integrated certain abilities into my workflow. I have a student who once asked me to show her some exercises to stay fit and get rid of backpain. Some easy exercises you could do at home or at a park. So I did, and the time went on and we changed this training into a kind of primal movement flow, which went one for some time. Finally I blended in some Feldenkrais session and this is the newest way to go. Through an accepting dialogue about states of moods and energy we both helped one another to adapt to one another, which I consider a good thing, because it is creating an atmosphere of trust. Being able to see what she needs at a certain time and being able to respond to it, I consider a skill I learned at my Feldenkrais apprenticeship. Another skill I use in my practice is the skill to be as open-minded as possible to reframe situations, in order to see it from another perspective, which sometimes has extraordinary effects on moods and feelings. — Christian Rabhansl

 

 

This should be easy for me to talk about, but I feel like it’s complicated.  I have lots of ideas of what I expect from myself as a teacher, and I’m very self-critical.  I’m very critical of other teachers when I’m in someone else’s class (though this is something I keep to myself and I do not offer criticism unless asked).  Also, I wasn’t that great a student as a kid, and I grew up with a bit of a problem with authority.
So, what makes a good teacher? I have some sketchy principles:
1. Quality Communication — Using multiple modes (verbal, physical, etc.), maintaining focus and prioritizing the elements of what’s to be learned, flexible enough to address barriers to people’s understanding, and repetitive in a manner that the lesson is actually received and struggled with.
2. Attention — Maintaining awareness of students’ responses, pausing for feedback whether it’s assessing simple visual cues, asking for verbal responses, or watching for physical demonstrations.
3. Vulnerability / “Skin-in-the-Game” — Being open with students about the teacher’s own strengths and weaknesses with regards to what’s being learned.  Not relying on the presumed “authority” of the teacher.  Willingness for the teacher to step back from being the center of attention by leaving gaps for students to fill, and then actually letting them do the work of filling the gaps.
What all of that means exactly, depends on the teaching context, of course — one-on-one vs. small groups vs. large groups; absolute beginners vs. a mixed-level group vs. more advanced practitioners.  I taught English to immigrants for four years (from basic literacy to college prep) before teaching yoga for the past five years.  A teacher needs to work to make the class worth a student’s time, and the teacher needs students to be receptive to the challenge of what they’re being taught, so all of this involves negotiation and compromise, and it can get messy very quickly.  — Chris Davis

 

 

 

My first yoga teacher used to say, “smile softly to yourself.” He said this while we were struggling in some uncomfortable pose, most of us, I’m sure cross-eyed and tense. I was always amazed how changing my facial expression could change my entire relationship to a movement, and its overall effect at lightening the mood in the room.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of sitting in workshops of all sizes, listening as teachers managed to get 10, 20, 50 people to move a specific way. The ability to explain things well, clearly and succinctly, is a trait I value and try to mimic. The beauty of listening to many people explain similar concepts is as the student, I find what resonates with me, but more importantly, it gives me ideas for how to explain things to other people. What makes sense to me doesn’t always make the most sense to the person in front of me. Clear communication and options for ways to convey a movement is, I think, one of the hallmarks of an effective teacher.
The other thing I find powerful is the ability to put a room at ease. Good teachers do this the moment they begin speaking. Excellent teachers do this as soon as they stand in front of the room. It’s more than posture, though that’s certainly part of it. It’s letting go of nervousness and not being so much of an authority that you aren’t relatable. Excellent teachers make the experience about the students, not about them. It’s something I try to remember when I am meeting with a new client or teaching a workshop to a group I don’t know.
I have been training for 15 years, taking workshops for 10 years, and teaching workshops for 5 years. When I go to workshops now, I pay more attention to how people receive the information, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I recently attended a workshop with 65 people. The person leading it made a point to have a conversation with every single person over the course of the two days. Partway through the second day, there was a sense of ease across the group.
Part of being a teacher is being a student first. I learn something from every class I sit in. All of those experiences influence how I teach.  — Jenn Pilotti

 

A good teacher is there for his/her students not for him/herself. Knows them, not only names but their wants and needs. Their likes related to the activity they engage in. A good teacher is perceptive and adaptable. Ready to handle last minute changes and adapt a session according to the mood or restrictions of the person or group. A good teacher gives honest feedback and never sugar coat comments. There’s a difference in giving kind but honest feedback and being a jerk. A good teacher stimulates a growth mindset environment among his/her students, making failure part of the process not something to be avoided. A good teacher knows he/she doesn’t know everything and is humble enough to admit it. That allows him/her to have a beginner’s mindset and continue to always be curious, learn and explore. A good teacher has skin in the game. His/her practice is also his/her laboratory. Leading by example, practising what he/she teaches and believes in. A good teacher treats his/her students as humans not clients. They become clients when they come back only for the service. What a good teacher must aspire is that they come back because they feel connected, because they believe in what you believe. They have to come back not for what you do but for why you do it. Love your work.   — Miguel Viero

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *